It may be difficult, initially, to see why the autobiography of a man who was the Sunday Times Typographic advisor and former editor of Garden and Home might be of interest to fans of crime and thriller fiction. But Ian Fleming: A Personal Memoir, by Robert Harling (The Robson Press, £20) isn’t a typical memoir. Instead, it uses Harling’s life to give readers a unique, sideways glance at his close friend, Ian Fleming, whose real life experiences during World War II clearly shaped at least some aspects of his highly regarded spy hero, James Bond. Harling’s life story intersects neatly with Fleming's through a close friendship and shared interests that include book collecting and design, typography and, of course, women.

One might expect their wartime exploits, where Harling served under Fleming in Number 30 Assault Unit, to dominate, but the real interest comes after the war, as Fleming adjusts to civilian life and spends over ten years writing the “spy story to end all spy stories.” It’s a surprising ambition. After all, Harling tells us, even Fleming would admit that “unless driven… he was inclined to be a somewhat idle fellow”, and writing a novel takes a very particular focus. Fleming, like his creation, is often charming and yet possessed of a palpable darkness that comes through in his attitude to marriage, monogamy and sex. But this is no hatchet job. It is, rather, a portrait of a complex man who will be forever linked to his fictional creation. For anyone interested in the genesis of Bond, or who wants to know more about the man who created 007, this is a fascinating first-hand look at Fleming. Harling can be a little dry, but his honesty and humour shine through in an affectionate and endearing portrait of a man he knew well.

Pulp fiction forms a loose theme this month, as Orion re-release the fourth Mike Hammer mystery by author Mickey Spillane, whose books were adored by readers, yet slammed by critics for their controversial and brutal content. One Lonely Night (Orion, £8.99) starts when Hammer tries to save a beautiful woman from an attacker on a bridge. She kills herself before the detective can intervene, so Hammer takes his anger out on the thug. From there, he dives into a communist conspiracy that reaches insanely melodramatic levels in the climax. If you can put aside a few shockingly dated attitudes (the book was first published in 1951) there’s some retro-pulp fun to be had. It’s clear why these books sold so well, satisfying a public hunger for thrills and sex. Political corruption, violence and the refusal of the system to properly punish the guilty drive the testosterone-fuelled and occasionally head-scratching plot. Hammer’s attitude to criminals is about as subtle, and often literal, as a bullet to the brain. But Spillane still occasionally criticises Hammer’s grey-area ethics. As his secretary, Velma, says of people’s attitude towards the private eye’s shoot first, ask questions later approach: “When you’re right, you’re a hero. When you’re wrong, you’re kill-happy.” The cynicism and ceaseless violence does overwhelm, but there’s no escaping the fact that Hammer’s creator, Spillane, wrote propulsive prose to keep those pages turning.

One can trace a direct line from classic American noir authors such as Jim Thompson and James M Cain to Jason Starr, whose latest novel Savage Lane (No Exit Press, £8.99) is peopled by an intensely twisted cast who fool everyone, including themselves, into believing they might be normal. In a well-to-do New York suburb, on a street by the name of Savage Lane (what were those town planners thinking?), recent divorcee Karen Daily tries to build a new life for her family, while fending off the advances of neighbour Mark Berman, who believes he’s having an emotional affair with her. Throw into the mix another woman's actual affair with an unstable teenager who has difficulties separating sexual fantasy and reality, and you have a disaster waiting to happen.

This is a savage book, in the best possible sense. Despite a six-year gap since Starr’s last novel, he remains the master of psychotic insight; few authors can create such compellingly unpleasant characters in so convincing a manner and still keep readers desperate to find out what happens next. There are more than a few jaw dropping revelations in store here, as no one is entirely what they appear.

Savage Lane is at its best skewering upper middle class values and hypocrisies, working both as a terrifically tense psycho-thriller and an all-too-convincing satire of the modern domestic dream.